Star Maze

Star MazeThe Game: Poor Thid. He’s lost in space, a long way from home, and he’ll need all of Earth’s intellectual and technological resources to get him home. Or, actually, since he’s on a budget, any old kid with an Atari home computer will do. See the videoSolve division problems of varying degrees of difficulty to help Thid return to his home planet, and keep in mind, time is limited for both equation solving and maneuvering. Even if you get your numbers right, Thid can accidentally run into “Badid Stars” that will explode, sending him plummeting into a different part of the star maze. You win the game by returning Thid to his home planet at the bottom of the screen, though if you’re feeling particularly daring, you can take a detour for double points along the way. (Roklan, 1984)

Memories: A clever little educational game for the Atari home computers, Roklan’s Star Maze probably isn’t at the top of anyone’s list except as an Atari completist’s collectible. I’m certainly no big fan of math games, but for some reason I like Star Maze. It’s a nice balance between the educational remit of the software and the board-game-like fun stuff in between the math problems.

Star MazeWell, all except for that “Badid Star” business. Rationally, I understand that this completely random event is designed to extend the game and to keep the kids doing those math problems. On a less analytical level, though, it’s discouraging to be dealt a random setback, and if I feel that way in my 30s, I don’t even want to think about the reaction of the game’s target audience when they can get every problem right and still get “Badid” out of the sky. A bit like real life, sure, but c’mon, this is a junior level math game.

Star Maze4 quartersOn the flipside, learning to cope with the unexpected probably has more value than shooting aliens – the “Badid Star” is as close as Star Maze comes to anything even remotely violent. I count a point off for the discouragement factor, but otherwise, this is a pretty cool game for the kiddos. And old farts like me who still struggle with division but like to help Thid.